All of these ingredients are easy to find in China, even in the organic variety. Chinese red dates (Hóngzǎo, 红枣) are a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) staple, often recommended for menstruation regulation. They are commonly known as Jujube (Jojoba) and rather expensive outside of China. Those from Xinjiang province are my favourite variety, much more succulent, as are the Xinjiang-sourced goji berry (wolf berry). Walnuts (Hétáo, 核桃). Kumquats (Jīn jú, 金橘), loosely translating as ‘golden tangerine’ from the Chinese, always seemed like a waste of time to eat to me. Rarely available in Europe, whenever I did try them all that effort to peel and eat something so small didn’t really seem worth it. Now for me in China they are the ideal fresh snack. I eat them with the skin on as I like the slightly bitter taste, and use them in dressings and marinades rather than using the common orange, which I have to say is not as delicious as the rich varieties I enjoyed whilst living in Southern Europe. In mineral water, alongside ice cubes and halved calamansi citrus, they offer a nice alternative to iced lemon water. I even add sliced fresh kumquats to my cinnamon and cardamom spiced oatmeal, as you can see in Oatmeal Variations.
This is an adaptation of the common walnut stuffed Chinese red dates. I add the spiced kumquats to make them more like the Arabic Coffee & Dates sweet treat, a little sticky and aromatic. These keep for just over one week in the refrigerator.
Natural walnut halves, 20
Chinese red dates (jujube), preferably large, 20
Kumquats, halved, 10
Chinese cinnamon stick, 1
Star anise, 3
Raw local honey, a drizzle
Filtered, distilled or mineral water, 300ml
1. Gently score the red dates vertically on one side only, in order to remove the pit.
2. Insert a walnut half into each red date opening and spread out the now stuffed dates on a baking tray or plate.
4. Add the water, cinnamon stick, star anise and a drizzle of honey to a saucepan and bring to boil.
5. Halve the kumquats vertically and add to the boiling water.
6. Leave to simmer on a low-heat for up to 30 minutes.
7. Strain and save the water for later.
8. Gently place a kumquat half over each walnut (as best you can, not all will me perfectly shaped of course) and drizzle a little of the seasoned sweetened water over with a teaspoon.
9. Add some loose black or red tea to the remaining strained water and enjoy as a tea whilst the stuffed dates set in the refrigerator.
Add ground cardamom, ground allspice and/or ground nutmeg too for more flavour and spice. You could also add a touch of chilli powder for flavour before straining too if you wish.
If you find removing the pit difficult and messy, soak the red dates in water for about 15 minutes and pat dry with kitchen paper, before attempting this.